April 22, 2016
Cultivating Sangha in the Rain

When the heavens opened on April 9, we worried that the pouring rain, dense fog, and deep, slippery mud at Green Gulch Farm might dampen the Zen-a-thon spirit. Instead, we discovered how community blossomed.  


Photo: Derek Miu

When planning our first Zen-a-thon, community building, fun, and an element of challenge were definitely high priorities. This fundraiser would include hiking, cycling, and sitting while enjoying time at beautiful Green Gulch Farm.

Early in the planning, community members stepped forward adding lovely elements to the day: Marcia’s roadside tea table, Chelsea’s children’s program, Vicki’s restorative yoga, and a beautiful bounty of food from sponsors came forth. Yet little did we know that the true challenge that awaited us would include pouring rain, dense fog, and deep, slippery mud.


Photo: Myoki Stewart


Photo: Myoki Stewart

On Saturday morning, we scrambled to set up inside and under cover. The roadside tea table was tucked under eaves, bag lunches on the lawn moved inside, and what we had thought would be a spacious day turned into an intimate gathering. Yet, undeterred by the weather, over 75 participants showed up at Green Gulch, eager and ready for what the day would bring. At the same time, a group of 11 cyclists departed in the rain from City Center, riding to Green Gulch.

Throughout the day, dripping participants came and went, biking and hiking, returning to peel off layers and dry off by the fire between activities. Dry clothes and towels were loaned to people who had been strangers just moments before; hikers appeared and disappeared through thick fog; and a joyous camaraderie of helping each other get through the day prevailed. Yes, this day was a challenge!

During the months of fundraising that led up to the event, we often spoke of the “Zen-a-thon spirit”. We used this term to express a certain willingness to do something new, to make a stretch, to understand that digital fundraising is a bit “clumsy” — as articulated by Senior Dharma Teacher Ryushin Paul Haller in his fundraising letter: “In the abundance of Timeless Spring and boundless giving and receiving, we hold out our digital begging bowl that you may join us in the joy of giving, receiving and gift. Though our actions are clumsy, we are endeavoring to share the Dharma with all beings.”


Photo: David Zimmerm

At the heart of this Zen-a-thon spirit is the joy of practice, the personal knowing that this practice deeply touches and changes the lives of so many, and the desire to keep our temples strong and thriving for years to come. This heart-knowing is the place from which we fundraise.

By the end of last Saturday’s Zen-a-thon, most of us were soaked through, delightfully disoriented, and filthy from head to toe. We had been through a challenge. We had met both personal and overall fundraising goals. Red-cheeked and warmed through, we collectively committed to doing this again next year.

When we chose this quote from Suzuki Roshi for our Zen-a-thon site, we had no idea how accurately it would express the spirit of our day:

“To share the joy of freedom with people is our purpose in life.”
—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, 1971

With gratitude for all of you who stepped forward into this big unknown, including our wonderful sponsors, together we exceeded our fundraising goal of $75,000, raising  more than $80,000 for the day-to-day operations of our temples.

Click here to see more photos.

Click here to see our progress or make a donation.